Advice to teachers that the direct teaching of reading vocabulary to children is an inferior procedure for gaining this linguistic goal is still circulating. It is easy to find recent statements from reading authorities that are intended to substantiate the belief that extensive reading will develop children's vocabulary better than direct instruction. For example, Smith ( 1978 ) maintains "The best way to acquire a large and useful vocabulary for reading is by meaningful reading" (p. 168). Johnson and Pearson (1978) would not apply this rule at the very beginning stage of reading instruction, but would put it into force quite early in the reading program. They note that "once children have acquired some basic proficiency in reading, that proficiency develops with practice, practice in reading, not in doing work sheets" (p.178).
Groff, P. (1981). Direct Instruction Versus Incidental Learning of Reading Vocabulary. Reading Horizons, 21 (4). Retrieved from http://scholarworks.wmich.edu/reading_horizons/vol21/iss4/7